Shelter Strives for Higher Pet Adoption Rates

Shelter Strives for Higher Pet Adoption Rates

Everything down to the pet gate that takes the place of Nina Stively’s office door speaks to the mission to which employees at LCAS have fully dedicated themselves. Rescuing animals, taking in pets, and finding them a new home through adoption is a difficult undertaking. The shelter brings in more than 2,000 animals a year just from the Louisiana ASPCA, and receives countless other rescue animals, strays and pets given up by their owners. Shelters around the country rely on others when they become overwhelmed, such as the Louisiana ASPCA has become in recent years. Finding room is a priority as well as a problem. Having a surplus of animals carries implications across the board and indicates a low adoption rate. Stively believes the solution is accessibility.

Loudoun Tribune - Stively, Loudoun Aminal Shelter DirectorAs the director of Loudoun County’s Department of Animal Services (LCAS) since September of 2015, Stively has already left her mark. From the holiday Adoption Extravaganza, the Barn Cat Program and youth educational tours to acting as a middleman for prospective owners and overseeing 11 dedicated officers with an 80 percent success rate in court, the agency’s shelter under her experienced eye has grown into a positive force for the community.

County Administrator Tim Hemstreet said Stively was a great match for position.

“Our nationwide search attracted a competitive group of applicants for this position and Nina presented the county with a great opportunity to fill the director’s position with a capable and energetic candidate,” said Hemstreet. “She brings a wide range of experience in the areas of responsibility that fall under the Department of Animal Services.”

Stively brings 11 years of experience in working with animal shelters and nonprofit organizations. She was a senior manager with the National Wildlife Federation, the Director of Community Outreach for the Espanola Valley, New Mexico, Humane Society, where she oversaw recruitment, management, and training for a staff of 27 employees and 65 volunteers, and the Mobile Adoptions Coordinator for the Animal Shelter & Humane Society in Sante Fe, New Mexico. In addition, she holds a certification from the University of Missouri Law Enforcement Training Institute as an Advanced Animal Cruelty Investigator. Stively is pursuing a master’s in veterinary science with dual graduate certificates in shelter medicine and public health from the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine.

LCAS operates as an animal shelter that provides adoption, community outreach and humane education. The building in Waterford where cats acclimate in employee offices, dogs exercise through obstacles, turtles bask under lamp heat and horses graze in grass fields, acts as an accommodating home for all types of animals. The friendly smiles of employees at the shelter belie the work of its 11 officers, from animal rescue to in-depth investigations of animal cruelty, health experts, technicians and a community of enthusiastic volunteers donating their free time, compose the backbone of this agency.

When an animal becomes dangerous or sick the shelter must resort to euthanasia but LCAS has experienced an increase in the “live release rate” in recent months. That means more animals at the shelter are leaving alive.

“Taking care of the animals and getting them to the adoption floor as quickly as possible is only half the process. The other half is left entirely up to the community,” said Stively, “I would love to see adoption as the first option.”

Understanding the benefits of adoption is an important first step. Many people prefer the one-month old kitten or the three-month old puppy as opposed to the 12-year-old cat and four-year-old dog, but are unaware of the effort necessary to help these animals grow and thrive. Owning such a young animal requires an amount of time and care that some are unable to provide. Adopting an animal that has already progressed past the point of constant supervision and is comfortable on its own can be a good alternative.

“Why older animals? Rescuing is so rewarding. The feeling of providing an animal with a happy life even if it may have little left is indescribable”, said Stively.

The shelter plans to move to a location along Sycolin Road in about three years to give residents better access to shelter pets.

“We hope that doing this will not only provide more space for incoming animals but that it will thrust us into the public eye and help these animals find a new home,” Stively said.

The shelter is located at 39820 Charles Town Pike in Waterford and operates Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information visit or call (703) 777-0406.